Meeting the Social and Emotional Needs of All Students

By Guest Contributors – Anne Snyder, Ph.D., Sr. Learning Scientist, McGraw-Hill Education and Christine Gouveia, Ph.D., VP Applied Learning Sciences, McGraw-Hill Education

In recent years, the education landscape has shifted to reflect a growing emphasis on social and emotional learning (SEL) in K-12 schools. We’re seeing strengthened efforts directed toward educating the “whole child,” and teachers are striving to provide their students with a more dynamic and comprehensive learning experience.

MDR-social-emotional-learning-studentsThe Changing Environment

From providing explicit instruction on how to practice self-management, to productively relating to peers and engaging in empathy, SEL is increasingly recognized as critical to every child’s development. Education leaders also recognize the importance of crafting SEL initiatives at a district-wide scale and integrating SEL into academic instruction.

Ideally, time spent on SEL throughout the school day should be meaningful, strategic, and research-based – but that’s often easier said than done. SEL is still a growing field, and researchers are continually expanding and refining their understanding of pedagogical best practices as well as the role of education technology in SEL. As researchers uncover more insights, the classroom momentum can’t be put on hold: district leaders, principals, and teachers are all learning in real-time, through relationships with students in the classroom.

Discovering Research-Driven Practices

As a learning science company, we’re constantly asking ourselves how we can truly empower every student to reach their full potential. We learned a long time ago that empowering students involves empowering educators. In the case of SEL, enabling students to grow into empathetic and kind adults begins with giving teachers the tools they need to effectively provide lasting and meaningful SEL instruction.

Integrating SEL initiatives into a school’s delivery of impactful learning experience will manifest differently, depending on the needs of a given district, individual students, and available resources:

  • For some, forward movement is all about integrating SEL into core instruction.
  • For others, measures of improvement rest in developing ways to accurately and continually measure school climate on a district-wide scale.
  • For others still, participation in community outreach programs are a useful introductory strategy.

To empower educators at all stages of SEL integration, the Applied Learning Sciences team at McGraw-Hill Education has created a new resource: The 5 Guiding Principles of Social and Emotional Learning. Drawing from research in SEL, including the work of the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL), this guide provides educators with concrete guidelines and strategies to foster SEL competencies in their students. To illustrate how such strategies may play out in the classroom, the guide also includes narrative examples, and encourages educators to envision how their own practice can be enhanced and integrated with SEL.

Applying Social Emotional Learning (SEL) Research to Practice

Research in SEL has uncovered the complexities of the relationship between students, teachers, schools, and the larger community.  (Durlak, Weissberg, Dymnicki, Taylor & Schellinger, 2011; Greenberg, Domitrovich, Weissberg, & Durlak, 2017; Taylor, Oberle, Durlak, & Weissberg, 2017). A child’s ability to maintain healthy relationships, carry on a productive and respectful conversation, make responsible decisions, and empathize with others all influence that child’s ability to succeed in academics.

That’s exactly why it’s so important to provide educators with actionable strategies, next steps, and examples to effectively work toward fostering these competencies in the classroom. Social and emotional learning is complicated, and every student enters the classroom with a unique set of SEL needs. Therefore, they often require an individualized approach to SEL practice and empowerment.

In any area of education, a teacher’s intuition and relationships with students can serve as a powerful driver to delivering individualized or differentiated instruction. But when it comes to SEL, that relationship is particularly crucial. District leaders might also consider how a teacher’s relationship to students might be mobilized and strengthened by research-driven strategies for a truly impactful approach to social and emotional instruction.

We hope this guide will function as a helpful stepping stone towards a comprehensive SEL instructional plan for any school, and we’re excited to be able to share it with educators. As learning scientists, we’re constantly reevaluating how we can best serve students and teachers with more data and insights on research-based practices in key areas of the ever-evolving education landscape.

We’re excited to monitor how the continued national focus on SEL shapes the futures of today’s students, and we’re ready to continue supporting educators on their journeys to get students to a place of growth, empathy, self-respect, and academic success.

Download the full guide.

Durlak, J. A., Weissberg, R. P., Dymnicki, A. B., Taylor, R. D., & Schellinger, K. B. (2011). The Impact of Enhancing Students’ Social and Emotional Learning: A Meta-Analysis of School-Based Universal Interventions: Social and Emotional Learning. Child Development, 82(1), 405–43

Greenberg, M. T., Domitrovich, C. E., Weissberg, R. P., & Durlak, J. A. (2017). Social and Emotional Learning as a Public Health Approach to Education. Future of Children, 27(1), 13-

Taylor, R.D., Oberle, E., Durlak, J.A., & Weissberg, R.P. (2017). Promoting positive youth development through school-based social and emotional learning interventions: A meta-analysis of follow-up effects. Child Development, 88(4), 1156-11

 Dr. Christine Gouveia is Vice President of Applied Learning Sciences at McGraw-Hill Education. In this role, Dr. Gouveia oversees the translation and application of learning sciences research into pre-K-12 program development to promote positive student learning outcomes. She holds a Ph.D. and M.A. in Educational Psychology & Cognitive Science from Cornell University and an M.S. in Developmental Psychology from Columbia University.

Dr. Anne Snyder is a Senior Learning Scientist within the Applied Learning Sciences team at McGraw-Hill Education. She holds a Ph.D. in Educational Psychology from Columbia University.